PM calls for agenda on a national population plan – propose to cut immigration numbers by 30,000
Melbourne, December 13: Prime Minister Scott Morrison emerged from Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) talks with states and territories in Adelaide, on Wednesday armed with an agreement to work with the state Premiers to develop a national population plan.
All states and territories have agreed to submit their population requirements by January 31, 2019.
“The next decision that has to be made, at least in terms of immigration, is what the annual intake cap will be for the 2019-20 year,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Morrison has been calling for a collaborative approach on immigration, since early November, this year.
“In a state like South Australia, you want more people,” Mr Morrison said.
“In states like NSW and Victoria, we need to manage that growth because the congestion impacts in Melbourne and Sydney are affecting the quality of life.”
Backing the Prime Minister, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is on record to call for slashing immigration to NSW by half.
Earlier, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called for more infrastructure spending.
“Growth is good when it’s properly managed,” she said.
However Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews has never lobbied Canberra to slash numbers, even temporarily.
Soaring population in Victoria is being perceived as the reason for Victoria turning into an economic powerhouse, according to the economic pundits.
Massive construction projects; stamp duty on property sales, jobs growth – all point to increasing government revenue and a churning economy with billion-dollar infrastructure expenditures dotting the larger Melbourne landscape.
Yet, Melbournians, in particular, are unable to ignore the crushing influence of more than 2000 people arriving by the week – most of them being overseas students or skilled migrants, followed by babies being born and those moving in from interstate.
More than 15,000 people moved to Victoria from interstate last year, comparable to the total figure of 125,000 newcomers.
Melbourne is projected to overtake Sydney soon and there is a desperate cry for new schools, hospitals, roads and effective public transport.
The transport system is not coping with the current 5 million – frustration and rising blood pressures at traffic congestion and long commute times, overcrowded trains and trams at peak hour, housing costs and mushrooming outer suburbs where township streets are turning in to arterial thoroughfares. Consequently, quality of life and well-being conditions have also been affected.
Without some drastic measures of either reducing population growth or massive infrastructural spending, the current system will fail miserably for the projected population of 9 million, in Melbourne, by mid-century.
Andrews’ regional rail plan for faster trains to Geelong and Ballarat and the $50b underground rail network projected to include 90km of new tracks, 12 new stations and an airport link, and take 200,000 vehicles off congested roads – will only be ready by 2050 with a caveat – that funding can be secured.
Construction of the $11bn Metro Rail tunnel with five new underground stations is underway.
Though, Premier Andrews already has some significant infrastructure projects in the pipeline, for Victoria, the conversation is probably not about cutting people intake but about managing it better.
It remains to be seen what numbers are proposed by Mr Andrews by January 31, 2019.
At COAG, immigration expert Professor Peter McDonald told state Premiers that cutting migration would hurt the economy.
He however, confirmed that chopping intake numbers by 30, 000 would not be a disaster.
“I don’t think the Prime Minister should cut migration,” Professor McDonald of Australian National University told The New Daily.
“[But] chopping it by 30,000 is not a complete disaster. It’s not 70,000, as some people have suggested.”
Australia’s migration program is currently capped at 190,000 for the 2018-2019 year.
Professor McDonald said that it would be pointless to cut migration to Sydney and Melbourne. “If there was to be some way that migration was lowered to Sydney and Melbourne but there was still strong labour demand in Sydney and Melbourne, then people would move there from the rest of Australia,” he said.
“Which people are already doing, but on a larger scale.”
Professor McDonald also said that migration was vital to support Australia’s ageing population. “That was by 2050 – through the impact of immigration on the ageing of the population,” he said.
Predicting a labour supply problem, Professor McDonald said Australia should maintain its current immigration levels. “In the next decade, Australia is facing a labour supply crunch. We’ve got about two million workers leaving the workforce, retiring – that’s the baby-boomer generation,” he said.
“Because of the lower number of births, and in the 1990s people stayed in education longer … we have a real labour supply crunch and the only way we are going to deal with that is through migration.”
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) also said today, that the Prime Minister’s snap decision to cut immigration numbers by 30,000 showed a lack of leadership and was driven by dubious polling.
Mary Patetsos, Chairperson FECCA, said that at a “time when leadership is required, we see Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacting to a divisive agenda.
“Our strong immigration level is vital to Australia’s economic growth, something Mr Morrison himself emphasised earlier this year when he declared that cutting immigration would negatively impact the Budget, that it would ‘hit the bottom line, the deficit’
“Instead of now declaring ‘enough, enough, enough’, Mr Morrison should be showing national leadership with a comprehensive plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure so that it can service a growing, prosperous nation.
“It is not good enough for the nation’s Prime Minister to abandon long-term vision for our future and opt for short-term populist politics.